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An attack on young women

Published Dec 14, 2011 8:29 PM

If anybody was unconvinced that the Democratic and Republican parties are two sides of the same coin, the recent blockage of over-the-counter emergency contraception by the Obama administration should put such fantasies to rest.

On Dec. 7, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services overruled a decision by the Food and Drug Administration that would have made the “morning-after” pill available to women of all ages without a prescription — the first time, according to the Dec. 8 New York Times, that the HHS has ever overturned an FDA decision. In doing so, the Obama administration follows the “politics first, science second” policies of the Bush administration — policies that the Obama administration vowed to discontinue when it came into office.

Access to emergency contraception for women of all ages has been supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. In a statement regarding the rejection of FDA approval, FDA head Dr. Margaret Hamburg went on the record with her support for emergency contraception access: “I reviewed and thoughtfully considered the data, clinical information, and analysis provided by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, and I agree with the Center that there is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential.” (RH Reality Check, Dec. 7)

Overruling the FDA is an outright attack on women’s bodies and women’s lives, particularly the lives of teenage girls. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, says, “In a country where nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, effective birth control isn’t just a convenience — it’s an urgent health need that too many women are still unable to meet.” (Huffington Post, Dec. 9)

The underpinning of the argument against emergency contraception for young women is that it will somehow encourage sexual activity. Instead, prevention of access to EC only means a lack of choices for young women who are already having sex. Currently, EC can be purchased by women 17 or older without a prescription, but they must request it at the pharmacy counter. It should be taken within 72 hours of contraceptive failure or unprotected sex. Overruling the FDA and continuing to require teens under 17 to get a prescription means they first need a medical appoint­ment, making it difficult if not impossible for them to obtain EC in time for it to be effective. What kind of choice is that?

The lives of women aren’t any more sacred to the Democrats than they are to the Republicans. Both parties find them expendable when it comes to playing politics, to getting the most election-year contributions, to attempting to put forward the policies that will garner the most votes. The only thing that’s ever won women their rights is the struggle.